Advent 3: “Joy” Face-to-Face Gatherings

The lessons focus on significant words of the season. They are arranged: 1. Hope, 2. Peace, 3. Joy, and 4. Love. However, feel free to arrange them according to the Advent practices of your congregation.

Prep

Ready the videos; gather an Advent wreath with candles and matches; provide Bibles and refreshments, paper and colored pencils.

Getting Started

Welcome all guests. Conduct a brief time for introductions of new participants.

Briefly review the scope of the study and The Bible Project. Revisit expectations regarding group dynamics, such as honoring one another with respect.

Offer an opening prayer. Light three Advent candles.

Prompt discussion: When you hear the word “joy,” what comes to your mind? What feelings or memories are evoked?

Digging In

Make available paper and colored pencils and invite participants to doodle or draw as they watch the video.

Introduce the video: In this video, we explore the unique type of joy to which God’s people are called. It’s more than happy mood, but rather a choice to trust that God will fulfill God’s promises.

Watch the video.

Following the video, note key ideas, such as the prevalance of joy or happiness in the Bible; biblical sources of joy; and joy as an attitude adopted based on hope in God’s promises. 

Invite participants to offer comments and observations on what they saw and drew. Discuss: Joy is a choice. It is an attitude that focuses on the character of God and rises above circumstances. Joy is different from happiness, which depends on happenstance. Joy is possible even in the midst of sorrow and suffering. Joy is the pure and simple delight in being alive in God’s world and in serving others and rejoicing in their good fortune.

Introduce Psalm 126. Psalm 126 is a community prayer for deliverance based on the remembrance of past deliverance. It is about joy remembered, and joy anticipated.

Invite volunteers to read Psalm 126 with resounding joy in their voices. The phrase “When the Lord restores the fortunes of Zion” refers to the people’s return to Jerusalem following the Babylonian exile. We can imagine the joy the people felt upon returning to their home.

Discuss: What emotions are evoked when you imagine dry river beds coursing with water? Of farmers rejoicing as they harvest a bountiful crop in the wake of drought? How do past restorations lead people to hope in God’s present and future restorations? For what do we hope in our homes and communities? Where is God bringing reconciliation and renewal?

Invite volunteers to read 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24. Paul responds to a church that has been asking how they can rejoice in the Lord when people were dying? How could they continue to trust and believe that Jesus was “the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25) in the midst of their grieving? Paul assures them in the second coming of Christ and the raising of the dead and calls them to rejoice in their lives regardless of the circumstances.

Watch this video and try not to be caught up in the joy!

Concluding Options

1. Have members of your group recall three of the most joyous moments you have experienced together during this Advent study.

2. Discuss: 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 combines rejoicing, praying, and giving thanks. Wonder together about the relationship between the three. Can you have one without the other two? How do rejoicing, praying, and giving thanks work together in your life?

3. Brainstorm ways you can be signs of God’s joy in the world. Choose a project to live out your commitment to joy, such as collecting smiles to see how many different ones you can gather.

Prayer

O God, give us joy even as our world fills us with sorrow. Help us to live joyful lives that witness to your abiding presence and promises. Thank you for delivering good news of great joy, the birth of Jesus Christ, your son and our savior. Amen.

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